Great Ocean Food: It’s a small world

May 28, 2020 BY

It is 40 years since I moved from home in Geelong and into a residential college at the University of Melbourne.

The world was my oyster and I looked forward to meeting new people and studying innovative subjects and ideas. It turns out that I was rather more motivated by socialising than I was by studying and spent a disproportionate time on the former and extraordinarily little time on the latter. It was a time of reasonably low academic expectations – some of my contemporaries later produced a show for television aptly named The D Generation. It suggested anything more than a mere pass (a D grade) was wasted effort and that time could and should have been spent more productively on the sports fields or at the local watering hole.
The environment was a perfect storm for frenzied collegiality. Cheap drinks and unbridled adolescent zeal combined with an irreverence towards institutions and the fact that tertiary education was free led to excesses of behaviour few of our young could appreciate today (Sometimes I despair at today’s seemingly total distrust and downright hatred of establishments, which makes our ridicule insignificant by comparison; but that subject is for another time and place). Getting back to partying, it stuck me at the time how similar we all were. I will never forget during my first month having three separate conversations with three different people I had just met. Bizarrely each of them holidayed not only in the same town as me but the same street.
Those coincidences continue in life. How many times have you heard the story of someone gazing at the Leaning Tower of Pisa or marveling at the Mona Lisa or even hiking in the Andes only to bump into their next door neighbour from Torquay? In days gone by, I railed against this and could not stand my perception of its claustrophobia. As the years have passed, I have changed my opinion and embraced that I have been fortunate to be brought up in a community.
So, I did enjoy a meeting I had earlier this year. My wife and I were attending a function for a friend in Melbourne. Name tags were de rigueur and I was easily identifiable. A woman approached me enthusiastically and said “You write an article for the Surf Coast Times!”. Given the context of where we were, I was surprised by her observation and then utterly astonished to discover she and her husband lived a few hundred metres from us. I was so pleased to make their acquaintance in such an unlikely location. The affirmation we belong to the same community struck me as comfortable and our shared passion for our region and its food was cause for much discussion.
Following is a recipe for ratatouille – it is more advice than a recipe; feel free to leave out or add any of ingredients.

Ratatouille

INGREDIENTS
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 eggplant / 3 zucchini
1 red capsicum
1 green capsicum
3 ripe tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
Sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tin of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

METHOD
Peel and cut the onions into wedges, then peel and finely slice the garlic. Trim the eggplant and zucchini, deseed the capsicum and chop into two centimetre chunks. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Pick the basil leaves and set aside. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the chopped eggplant, zucchini and capsicum and fry for five minutes, or until golden and softened. Spoon the into a large bowl. To the pan, add the onion, garlic, thyme leaves with another drizzle of oil. Fry for 10 minutes, or until softened and golden. Return the cooked vegetables to the pan and stir in the fresh and tinned tomatoes, the balsamic and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Cover the pan and simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes. Tear in the basil leaves and serve.

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